Saying it's been a busy week and half on the central bank front is perhaps a sizeable understatement.
First, the Swiss National Bank stunned the world (and its brethren central banks) by removing its peg to the Euro. This was quickly followed by Mario Draghi finally making good on his longtime threat of firing QE bazooka, announcing that the ECB will pursue a 60 billion Euro per month easing program for the next 16 months. And amidst all the smoke, the Canadian central bank snuck in a surprise rate cut to its interest rate.
To make sense of both the "Why?" behind these extreme moves, as well as the "What?" in terms of their implications, Axel Merk, founder and Chief Investment Officer of Merk Funds joins us this week.
In his opinion, recent events are exactly the kind the symptoms he's been expecting as the prime strategy pursued by central banks since 2008 -- to force capital into speculative assets -- approaches its natural and inevitable denouement. Indeed, he projects the surprises in store for us and the systemic instability we're beginning to see are just getting started:
Ultimately, central banks are just sipping from a straw in the ocean. I did not invent that term. Our senior economic advisor, Bill Poole, who is the former president of the St. Louis Federal Reserve taught us this: that central banks are effective as long as there is credibility.
What central banks have done is to try to make risky assets appear less risky, so that investors are encouraged or coerced into taking more risks. Because you get no interest or you are penalized for holding cash, you've got to go out and buy risky assets. You've got to go out and buy junk bonds. You have to go out and go out and buy equities.
The equity market, volatility until not long ago, has been very low. When volatility is low, investors are encouraged to buy something that is historically risky because it is no longer risky, right?
But as the Swiss National Bank has shown, risk can come back with a vengeance. The same thing can happen of course, in any other market. If the Federal Reserve wants to pursue an "exit" to its intervention, if it wants to go down this path, well, volatility is going to come back.
Everything else equal, it means asset prices have to be priced lower. That is the problem if you base an economic recovery exclusively on asset price inflation. We are going to have our hands full trying to kind of move on from here. In that context, what the Swiss National Bank has done is it is just a canary in the coal mine that there will be more trouble ahead.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Axel Merk (35m:23s)